Klemmer and Fifita go head-to-head for top prop honours
Bulldogs forward David Klemmer runs headlong into Sharks star Andrew Fifita this Sunday to decide who is top of the props in the Telstra Premiership.
While Klemmer, a former Origin teammate, says there is no ill-feeling about Fifita's allegiance to Tonga over the NSW Blues, there are plenty of competitive juices flowing between the pair.
"Mate, if that's his decision for himself, his family and his career at the moment then good luck to him," Klemmer said on Tuesday as he prepared for the Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 11 on Sunday.
"If that's means a lot to him – playing for his country in Tonga – then I wish him all the best."
Klemmer is No.1 in the NRL for post-contact metres (690), while Fifita leads the league in offloads with 37 and is second only to Roosters winger Blake Ferguson's 179.
The Bulldogs enforcer (1656) also sits just behind Martin Taupau (1657) as the top forwards for running metres.
Klemmer admits he's an unabashed fan of Fifita.
"He's been outstanding. I've been watching him the last few weeks," he said.
"On Sunday [win over Canberra] he really stood up, especially as captain and without Gal [Paul Gallen] and Wade [Graham]. He's been really helping his team out in being the senior forward there.
"He's a hard man to take down. He's got great footwork and runs like a back as well.
"He gets the ball rolling for them and gets his body between people. He's a big boy to bring down being 120-plus kilos."
But Klemmer stopped short of labelling Fifita the best prop in the game.
"That's a hard one as there's quality across the clubs but he's playing really well."
And Klemmer is doing his job from the bench these days. After eight weeks starting in the front row, Klemmer came off the bench in the loss to Brisbane and the win over Parramatta at the behest of coach Dean Pay.
"He asked me a couple of weeks ago if one of us would like to go back to the bench, and I just put my hand up," Klemmer said.
"That's where I've played the majority of my career, off the bench. So if it's going to help the team and fulfil a role there, I'm all for it.
"(Pay) was saying he couldn't have both of us off at the same time. I'm enjoying helping the younger guys on the bench like Renouf [To'omaga] and Rhyse [Martin]. I love playing alongside them. They're keeping everything fresh."
The two debutants are among the reasons Klemmer wants to see out his Bulldogs contract to the end of 2020.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald had Parramatta sounding out the Bulldogs about taking Klemmer off their hands to ease salary cap pressures in 2019-20.
Klemmer, who doesn't have a manager, said no-one had spoken to him from either club.
"It's obviously frustrating to hear that. I'm contracted here at the club... I've been a big supporter since I was kid. It was a dream to come here every day and play for the club.
"I know it's as business as well, but it would be pretty hard to leave. I don't know what the salary cap is here.
"I know there's been talk it's pretty tough at the moment."
Similar reports have been circulating around fullback Moses Mbye, who is also a free agent in 2020.
Bulldogs chairwoman Lynne Anderson and CEO Andrew Hill have organised a fan forum on Thursday night to explain the club's salary cap situation to members and supporters.